OptOut would like to wish everyone a happy 4th of July–especially for those who do not feel particularly patriotic.
Don't feel bad if you're feeling more blue than tri-colored today. We get it. We see you. The nation is in deep crisis and, if we're being honest with ourselves, there is no guarantee of recovery.
The effects of unmitigated climate change alone promise to put immense strain on the nations of the world, threatening our own stability. At one point in our history, we may have been able to muster a credible federal response, but today, our government feels anemic and unable to tackle problems.
For more on our climate woes, check out this piece from WISCONSIN EXAMINER:
Nobody feels that more than younger Americans, who are inheriting a nation forcefully sculpted to cater to wealth at the expense of literally everything else.
In 1976, the United States Supreme Court, stacked with Richard Nixon-appointed justices, including corporate attorney Lewis Powell whose memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce outlined the roadmap for a corporate counterrevolution, opened the floodgates for political spending. In the case of Buckley v. Valeo, the court held that spending money is a protected form of speech under the First Amendment; that only direct contributions to campaigns could be limited by Congress. The ruling allowed campaigns and wealthy Americans to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence politics, which was later expanded in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to include corporations (and unions).
Since then, wealth has been winning the policy fight. Members of right-wing generational wealthy families–like the infamous oil billionaire Koch brothers (David Koch is deceased)–have dedicated significant fortunes to waging war on climate science, federal regulation, taxes, and government action generally. Unfortunately, their successes are many. Over the last 50 years, America has been hollowed out. As our public goods and services slip away or fall into disrepair, wealth pools at the top and our planet warms.
Today, the best we can seemingly expect on the existential crisis of climate change is more dollars allocated to green energy projects–even as we expand fossil fuel development in federal waters. It wasn't always this way, but new regulation, new taxes, even nationalization are today outside the realm of possibility.
Beyond the unaddressed existential threat of our only planet's climate becoming uninhabitable by humans, young folks face historic inequality. Everywhere you turn there seem to be more expenses. Housing costs are impossibly high, student debt is a ball and chain, healthcare is a predatory for-profit enterprise, and retirement is a distant dream. Meanwhile, horrific regimens from the past like child labor are seeing a resurgence.
For more on child labor, check out this story from IOWA CAPITAL DISPATCH:
Voting in elections is undeniably essential, but is definitely not enough since all we ever seem to do is lose ground thanks to deep entrenchment of right-wing forces in key positions–like the obviously partisan and blatantly corrupted Supreme Court. At least two of the right-wing justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, have billionaire benefactors and one of their wives tried to overturn a federal election. But we shouldn't expect any action against either man from Congress because the GOP controls the House, and President Biden, presumably wary of being seen as too extreme, has not even embraced calls for action.
As if that all weren't enough to ruin your Independence Day, the country is facing an increasingly radicalized, right-wing resurgence, which is up in arms over everything from the recognition of LGBTQIA+ existence to efforts to contain a pandemic virus, to the teaching of U.S. history. Although these individuals make up a minority, their significant funding and the media's insistence on being seen as nonpartisan has legitimized their extremism.
It has been said many times by many people smarter and better equipped than I that this nation has never truly grappled with its legacy of slavery.
This despite the contributions of enslaved and formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants to the military, science, arts and culture, etc. Every generation we seem to fight the same battle against the same forces.
At the end of last month, the corrupted, far right United States Supreme Court gutted affirmative action, a program that allowed colleges and universities to consider race as one of many factors in accepting applicants.
“Whatever their skin color, today’s youth simply are not responsible for instituting the segregation of the 20th century, and they do not shoulder the moral debts of their ancestors," wrote the notoriously billionaire-funded Justice Clarence Thomas, also the second African American appointed to the bench, in his concurrence.
But the issue has never been the moral debts from a bygone era; it's the moral debts of today which reflect the failure to repay those of past generations. We never even paid reparations to the people who did so much to build this country.
To this day, Black Americans are more likely to receive harsher sentences than white Americans for the same crimes. They are overrepresented in our prison population, which leads the world both in raw number and per capita.
For more about conditions in America's prisons, check out this story from NEW REPUBLIC:
Black mothers are almost three times more likely to die in child birth than white mothers. Black Americans suffer sleep disorders at disproportionately high rates, and Black communities are more likely to lack supermarkets and financial institutions. Needless to say, Black home ownership also lags.
And yet, rather than address these problems, we find ourselves having to fight back against extremist groups like the astroturf Moms For Liberty, who wrap themselves in the flag while trying to takeover school boards and ban books.
It's enough to drive a normal person up a wall. So what then can we celebrate on the Fourth of July?
To be honest, I've been grappling with this question for some time. The answer that I keep coming back to is that this nation is bigger than me and it is bigger than this moment in time.
To write off America is to write off the work being done every day by fighters committed to positive change–school teachers and administrators, civil rights attorneys, activists, medical professionals, muckraking reporters, union organizers, and anyone else who aims to make a nuisance of themselves against the forces of oligarchy, oppression, and hate. Who are we say the fight is lost when so many dedicated people are willing to take it on every day not matter how seemingly Sisyphean is may be?
This Fourth of July, we celebrate those individuals who we believe embody the best of this nation; whose ongoing fight shows far more patriotism than empty nationalistic rhetoric. Happy Independence Day!
For more on this national day of recognition and celebration, please check out the following from OptOut participating outlets.
OREGON CAPITAL CHRONICLE re-published Frederick Douglas's famous and essential commentary, "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?"
THE FLORIDA PHOENIX republished the Declaration of Independence.
HELLGATE NYC offered useful tips on how to "scam" a free hotdog.
THE INTERCEPT published a list of radical statements from America's Founding Fathers.
COUNTERPUNCH, meanwhile, put out a call for activism and organizing against resurgent right-wing extremism in the U.S.
CAPITAL & MAIN asked the important question.